So far, since 2014, we’ve scooped you Dentonites on more than 15 wacky local sites to explore and we’re just getting started! Urban explorers have been introduced to hidden nuclear bases and a huge Jackalope BBQ smoker, gaudy mansions and a forgotten drive-in, fiberglass giants, world-record wonders, and numerous secret hideouts, but there are plenty more wildly weird places to visit in or around Denton if you’re seeking offbeat adventure. Here are a few more to add to your bucket list.
B.W. Crawford operated a pecan-cracking business for years in Denton, but at some point he began to see artistic possibility in the discarded husks. Called “The Pecan Picasso,” Crawford began to create meticulously-crafted figurines or elaborate scenes out of pecans that were inspired by pop culture. Ranging from hot-glued pecan figurines of George Washington, Dolly Parton, Batman, or President George H.W. Bush to dioramic scenes like The Last Supper, his folk art is all the more remarkable since Crawford had never displayed a lick of artistic talent before he hit retirement. B.W. says he had “never picked up a paintbrush except to paint a house,” becoming an occasional media sensation with appearances on TV shows like “Live with Regis and Kathy Lee” and “The David Letterman Show.” When Crawford died in 1998, his widow donated his folk art collection to the Denton County Courthouse on the Square Museum, where you can see the whimsical creations in this World’s Largest Pecan Art Exhibit on regular rotation (usually in displays on the upper floors of the Historic Courthouse).
VIDEO: The Denton County Museums put together this super-cut of B.W. Crawford media appearances that you gotta see to believe. Seriously.
Did y'all know there’s a spot that celebrates Christmas all year long in Denton? The decidedly unique Bethlehem in Denton County is the passion project of Judy Klein, whose Sanger home also doubles as a free-but-by-appointment gallery of Christmas Nativity scenes, figurines, collectible memorabilia, and a wild assortment of over 3,000 holiday items involving so many mangers of the Baby Jesus. Judy “The Manger Maid” has been joyfully sharing her private collection with the public for over 15 years, but recently doubled display space with another building to showcase 5 Christmas trees, nativity plates, holiday bells, Precious Moments and Peanuts special editions, and nativities crafted in unique materials from all around the world. You can schedule a visit for your group but plan on at least an hour to take it all in, and you may as well grab a bite at Babe’s Chicken while you’re up in Sanger to avoid any hunger pangs of regret.
Believe it or not, the largest community garden in the entirety of the United States is just a stone throw from the downtown Denton Square. The Shiloh Field Community Garden supplies fresh home-grown fruits and vegetables to numerous local charities, and their 150 15x15 foot plots allows families or individuals space to grow… free of charge. In the last two years, the collective has harvested between 24,000 and 30,000 pounds of food that has helped feed low income children and needy families using surplus. “We have a lot of low-income folks that work out here, and they raise this themselves,” notes Gene Gumfory, who founded Shiloh Field in 2009 after an epiphany during church; “That’s good. That’s what it’s all about.” If you want to volunteer, tend your own plot, or just take a gander at their impressive operation, it is totally worth a stop-by.
But wait, there’s more! Another cool DIY operation in Southeast Denton is Dorothy’s Kitchen Table, a volunteer-based pay-what-you-can community restaurant and sharing space. The ambitious collective endeavor launched just last year, but the locally-sourced organic produce and MacGuyver menu planning has been quickly winning over fans. A schedule for weekly breakfast or dinner can be found at their website or Facebook page, but the real treat will be meeting the amazingly nice folks putting their lofty principles into practice for the good of the community.
Jeepers, I wasn’t hungry before I started writing this post but all this talk of food has me hankering for a bite! Be sure to tag #WDDI on your Denton walkabouts and urban exploring, and share your favorite offbeat sights in the comments!
Shaun Treat is a former professor at the University of North Texas and founder of the Denton Haunts historical ghost tour. Doc has written about numerous local places and personalities at his Denton Haunts blog, and is forever indebted to the great work of our local keepers of history like Mike Cochran and Laura Douglas at the Emily Fowler Library for their tireless work in helping preserve Denton’s intriguing past. Be sure to check out our local museums curated by the fine folks at the Denton County Office of History & Culture, and follow @Dentonaut on Twitter for local happenings.